By Nancy Bell, Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation
The three-story Greek Revival building that would become the Vicksburg Infirmary was constructed in 1869 on the southwest corner of Harrison and Vick streets for Reverend J. E. Wheeler’s seminary ladies school, the Vicksburg Female Institute.
The Vicksburg Female Institute
The school was quite ambitious with the cost of a twenty-week term costing from $25 to $50 for tuition (depending on if the student was enrolled in the primary, academic, or collegiate department) and $100 for board with lights and washing extra.
Eleven teachers were employed by the Institute to provide courses on ancient languages, mental philosophy, history, French, English, Math, Italian language and literature, natural sciences, moral philosophy, natural theology, evidences of Christianity, German, chemistry, penmanship and vocal and instrumental music.
The school only lasted for a couple of years and the building then operated as a boarding house, including a time under the ownership of Milly Crump and Jennie Crump Wilkerson, as the Wheeler Boarding House.
A state-of-the-art medical facility
In December of 1902, Dr. R. A. Quin, Dr. E. F. Howard, Dr. J. H. Purnell, Dr. B. B. Martin, Dr. H. H. Haralson, Dr. H. B. Wilson, and Dr. Joseph Waldauer chartered the Vicksburg Infirmary.
They hired architects Rawson and Baunack to develop plans to transform the Wheeler House into a state-of-the-art medical facility.
“We are not in it for a money making scheme either, but simply to establish a place where we can send a certain class of patients for better treatment and for more home like and better supervised treatments than they would get ordinarily,” the doctors stated to the Vicksburg Herald. “Vicksburg has long needed just such an institution, and no efforts of ours will be spared to make it a pride and an ornament to the city.”
There were eighteen private rooms, one ward, a “modern and perfectly equipped kitchen, laundry and pantries. The serving room connects with pantries on every floor above by means of a dumb waiter so that meals can be served anywhere in the building directly, without loss of time or heat.”
On each floor was a sitting room for patients opening onto the large front gallery. On the third floor were an operating room, laboratory, and pharmacy. An elevator provided access to all floors, hot water provided the heat, and there were both gas and electric light fixtures.
In August of 1904, the Herald reported that architect P. H. Weathers had been hired to provide plans for the “Marine Hospital Annex to the Vicksburg Infirmary for the comfort of Negro patients.” This frame building was constructed at the rear of the main building and was designed with male and female wards and bathrooms.
When the Vicksburg Infirmary opened, the per-day rates were $1.50 to $5 and by 1906, they were $3 to $5.
Training school & Pasteur additions
In October 1904, a training school for nurses opened at the Vicksburg Infirmary. It was a six-month course and they hoped to graduate four to six nurses in the first term.
In June 1909, Dr. B. B. Martin announced that a Pasteur Institute was to be started at the Vicksburg Infirmary with Dr. William Krauss from Memphis in charge. The Pasteur treatment was a vaccine used to prevent a person from developing rabies.
Another addition was made to the hospital in 1916 with R. W. Bolt as the contractor. In 1917, Dr. Martin announced a major $15,000 renovation of the building. New features included an x-ray room on the ground floor, a new operating room on the second floor, new windows allowing for better light and updated public spaces.
Patient’s rooms now had electric push buttons that were “connected with the nurses’ department to summon a nurse at will.” “The patient’s rooms are all modern in every respect and are provided with a telephone attachment, electric fan attachment, and besides a large ceiling electric light, a reading light and a colored globe light.”
In July 1921, the Infirmary was “selected by the government as the local hospital to look after veterans (of World War I), and it will be the duty of the Allein post to visit that institution regularly when sick veterans are being treated here.”
The building continued to be added onto until the 1940s. The Vicksburg Infirmary was housed in the building until the late 1960s, as seen in the photograph above.
The Infirmary was demolished in 1972.
This article was written by Nancy Bell, executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation and published here with permission.
The VFHP was founded in 1958 and incorporated in 1959 to identify, preserve, protect and interpret our community’s rich architectural resources. Learn more at PreserveVicksburg.org.See a typo? Report it here.